I haven’t written anything for a while, but nobody has been hibernating around here. We’ve been cleaning and redecorating the nest, preparing for a guest from Japan who is an exchange student at my daughter’s school. And in the midst of all the painting and carpeting and scrubbing, the barn flooded big time last week. Now, our fifteen-year old visitor has safely arrived, just in time for a late season snowfall. Having a person from across the world living in our home for almost three weeks is giving me an interesting new perspective on what we do and why we do it.
First, I can see that my life revolves around our animals. You probably are thinking, right, Vic, no duh! Stella, the crazy puppy, is front and center most of the time. Fortunately, our Japanese guest loves her and the horses and the cat, who all compete for my attention constantly. The snow we had this week was topped by a good layer of ice and then a heavy dose of rain, so I am anxiously rushing outside, digging drainage ditches and hoping that the barn won’t flood again as everything melts. Between driving the girls to activities at school, playing tour guide and mom to our guest and keep up the usual routine of mucking, feeding and exercising, I am running non-stop. I’m sure it’s a big contrast to the way that our new Japanese friend’s mother lives her life. And face it, it’s quite different from the way that most of my daughter’s friends’ moms act around here. Putting a magnifying glass on myself, I see clearly how much extra energy and time I spend each day just caring for all these critters.
I also am aware of how when something goes wrong or is unpleasant to do, our family ethic is “don’t complain, just get ‘er done”. I am pleased that my daughter has adopted this attitude recently without any typical teenager attempts to dodge the work or moan and groan about how tough her life is. She is also learning how to juggle her own busy schedule at school with her responsibilities as a host to her new friend. They have all kinds of special activities and meetings to attend, and she is very protective that no one offends our guest. Since she will be going to Japan herself this summer for a month, it is giving her a good viewpoint of how it feels to be a stranger traveling alone in a foreign land. I am seeing her grow up and become more adult and more confident each day, and I am delighted.
At the same time, I also realize that since the frightening events here in Sandy Hook last December, there is a shadow of fear and dread that passes over me each time I watch the kids get on the bus in the morning. I am very aware that the families who lost loved ones are really struggling, and that as the reality sinks in and time passes, the grief gets stronger and harder to bear. Yesterday, we took our Japanese guest to a wonderful place that is a new healing arts center in town. A hardware store closed, and the big open space has been donated to creating a gallery for some amazing art that has been sent from all over the world in memory of Sandy Hook. There’s also a big stage full of drums, keyboards, guitars and other musical instruments that was given as a way to have performances and jam sessions. Art classes and drum circles and mediation and dance classes are offered for free. I’ve also noticed that as I introduce our Japanese guest to the owners in stores around town, each one happily and immediately gives her a gift to take home. There is a spirit of kindness and openness that has visibly increased here.
The horses are eager for our visitor’s attention. I have told her that her job at feeding time is to spoil them by giving them carrots. Siete is especially affectionate and calmer. She was very irritated last week when her stall flooded. The water came into the front of the barn, but luckily, the stalls are big enough that the horses were both able to stand and lie down on dry land in the back while we pumped out the water and filled in with bags and bags of wood pellets. Unlike her cranky child, Silk was very appreciative of my husband and my efforts to make her home dry and cozy again. I don’t want to jinx it, but so far, there have been no more signs of water coming in, and the temperatures are cold enough that the melting is more gradual.
I’ve been seeing photos on Facebook of flowers and warm sun where my friends live in other parts of the country. It does not look like Spring here at all. Snow is falling again as I write this, but we’ve got plenty to occupy us while we await the awakening of the green earth. My brave little daffodils are just outside the back door, poking up from under the white blanket and setting a good example for me to carry on.